"Bella!" Rosa Baggins came running up the walkway to the door of the great Took smial, a large basket in hand. "Are you still coming with me today?"
Belladonna was at the door almost before Rosa could knock. Her hair was disorderly, but her eyes were shining. "Yes, Rosa, sorry, I had to go down to the cellars for the wine I wanted. Come in, come in! I just need to fix my hair, and then we can go!"
Rosa set her basket down just inside the door. "I do so like it when your hair's all disheveled, though!" she exclaimed laughing.
Belladonna elbowed her, but grinned and whispered "You like it best when you can do it yourself! I'll give you a chance later." Her fingers moved swiftly over her hair, setting it to rights, and then she grabbed the dusty bottles of wine from the table where they'd been sitting. "Come, let's go! Day's a-wasting!"
Laughing, they proceeded hand-in-hand over the fields from the Great Smial northward onto the Downs. It was quiet there, and so favoured by romancing hobbits for lazy afternoons and intimate picnics.
In a wide meadow near the woodland, they settled down in the long grass. Crickets chirped not far away, and the birds were singing in all the trees. It was a perfect summer afternoon, made for a long lazy picnic. Rosa brought plenty of food, and the bottles of wine Belladonna carried were certainly not small.
Love was all very well, but food came first, so the hobbit lasses set to, and ate their fill: small sandwiches filled with cheeses, various meats, various kinds of vegetables, all made by Rosa's own hand that morning. There were also small lemon cakes, an apple pie, sweet sugar cookies, and Belladonna's favourite seed-cakes. Fruit filled up the corners nicely: chilled grapes, fresh strawberries and bramble-berries newly picked the day before, an apple or two, a pear or two.
Replete with food and wine they lay back after some time, looking up at the slowly drifting clouds above, and now and then exchanging lazy kisses, still too full to think of anything more strenuous.
Belladonna's sharp eyes caught movement on the horizon. With a gasp, worried that some lads had come to spy on their private picnic, she sat up. Then she rubbed her eyes, and nudged Rosa, who was near to falling asleep.
"Rosa, do you see it?" Belladonna said in a low fierce tone, standing up to get a better view. Rosa scrambled to her feet.
"Is that a tree...moving across the field?" Rosa's voice was deeply skeptical. "What's in the wine you brought?"
"It's just wine!" Belladonna said. "And we didn't even drink it all." The tree continued to move, at some distance from them, but getting nearer. "I'm not imagining this."
"What a very queer sight," Rosa said. "They'll never believe it in a month of Sundays!"
"It's stopped," Belladonna said. "Come on, I want to see it up close."
"Of course you do," Rosa said, rolling her eyes.
They left the picnic stuff behind, weighted down with a couple of large stones, and made their way across the field.
When they got there, the tree just looked like a tree, an elm tree to be specific. Belladonna climbed up it, making her way into the second tier of branches. "Come on up," she said, holding her hand down to Rosa. "Nice place for kissing with a view, if nothing else!"
Rosa laughed, but followed, and was soon settled on the branch next to Belladonna. For a moment they relaxed in the branches, Belladonna's arm around Rosa, but soon enough they were exchanging tender kisses once more.
All the tree's leaves rustled at once despite there being no wind, and the two hobbits jumped apart.
"Bless me!" the tree said, a face becoming apparent a little way above where they sat. "Who might you two be? And what might you be?"
"We're hobbits!" Belladonna said, recovering herself after a short sharp gasp of surprise. "You're in our homeland. But what are you? You're a tree, but you move. How?"
"I'm not a tree," the tree said. "I'm an Entwife. You might call me Autumngold in your tongue. I'm trying to find my home."
"Oh," Belladonna said. "Where is your home?"
"I don't know," Autumngold said. "I lost it, long ago, and now I can't find it again."
"You can stay here in our homeland, if you want," Rosa said, her tender heart moved by the sadness of the tree's plight.
"Your home is very beautiful," Autumngold replied. "It is not my home, but it may be a good place for me to stay for a while. But there are no Ents, and so there will be no Entings, alas. It has been many a year since there were Entings."
"Entings, are they children?" Belladonna asked.
"Yes, little saplings," Autumngold said. "Small young ones that spring forth from the ground around us after we mate. I miss them."
"Have you had many children, then?" Belladonna asked.
"Many, in my time, long ago and far away." Autumngold's leaves quivered.
"I just want one," Rosa said.
Belladonna nodded. "One child is plenty for me too." She stepped down onto a lower branch. "But I'm sorry you're missing your children. I hope someday you find them again." She held out her hand to Rosa. "We should go back to our picnic before the ants get it."
Rosa followed her and they both made their way out of the tree. "It was nice to meet you, Autumngold," she said.
"Maybe if I found another Entwife, I could do as you two do, and then I wouldn't be so lonely," Autumngold said.
"Maybe another one will show up here one day," Belladonna said. "If I ever see one, I'll tell her about you."
Autumngold's leaves rustled. "I will wait for her somewhere in these lands, little hobbits. I can wait a long, long time."
"Farewell!" Belladonna said, waving her hand.
"Until we meet again!" Rosa added. "Because we're coming back here again soon, aren't we?"
"She might not be here next time," Belladonna said.
"They'll never believe us if we tell them," Rosa said, shaking her head.
"So we don't tell them," Belladonna said. "Keep this adventure in your heart. It's just between you, me, and Autumngold."